Final Château Laurier addition design gets planning committee's OK

·2 min read
Final Château Laurier addition design gets planning committee's OK

The latest and supposedly final design for a controversial addition to Ottawa's Château Laurier easily won the approval of the city's planning planning committee Friday, despite receiving a lowly C+ from one well-known architect.

This is the sixth iteration of the design presented by owner Larco Investments since 2016. Previous versions have been likened to a radiator, a shipping container and an air conditioner tacked onto the rear of the landmark hotel, which opened in 1912.

Members of the planning committee voted 7-2 in favour of the new design, but it's still not to everyone's liking.

The proposed design ... is not a great piece of architecture. - Barry Padolsky, architect and built heritage subcommittee member

"In my view, the proposed design ... is not a great piece of architecture, and it is not one that will be a destination for tourists when they decide to travel again. It's not going to be an internationally acclaimed destination, a must-see," said renowned architect Barry Padolsky, who sits on the city's built heritage subcommittee, which also met Friday.

While Padolsky admitted the new design is an improvement over the original proposal, which he called "an architectural eyesore and an embarrassment to the pride of the national capital," he said it only rates a grade of C+.

rchitectsAlliance/City of Ottawa
rchitectsAlliance/City of Ottawa

Coun. Riley Brockington, one of three councillors on the built heritage subcommittee to vote against the design, also expressed his dismay, suggesting some of his colleagues were satisfied with "good enough."

"I'm not. This is my opportunity to say this is not acceptable and it's not good enough," Brockington said.

Subcommittee members Rawlson King and Catherine McKenney joined their council colleague in voting against the design, which lost on a tie but was subsequently approved by the more powerful standing committee.

Heritage Ottawa approves

The latest rendering includes east and west towers of 10 and 11 storeys respectively, clad in smooth Indiana limestone and overlooking a semi-private courtyard.

Heritage Ottawa has also indicated its approval of the new design, which in addition to the limestone includes copper and bronze features the group felt reflect "the heritage character-defining elements of the historic hotel."

At the same time, Heritage Ottawa president Richard Belliveau, who characterized the new design as "a worthy contemporary response," also called for stronger legislation to protect historically important buildings and monuments.

Another local group remains strongly opposed to the addition, however.

architectsAlliance/City of Ottawa
architectsAlliance/City of Ottawa

"I think everybody agrees that the most recent design is somewhat better, but somewhat better than worst is not acceptable," said Robin Collins of Protect Château Laurier, which formed after the addition was first proposed in 2016.

The design will go to city council for final approval on Feb. 24.